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Iowa City, IA


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Hah, I just happened by this post; I live in IC for the moment and went to undergrad here! Do your best to avoid the rental company Apartments Downtown, aka Apartments Near Campus. They are, sadl

So, I am likely moving to Iowa City in August. (I just got an assistantship offer and will probably accept.) I live in New York, so I suppose I have to haul myself over there to look at apartments soo

For those of you who are considering Iowa, if you have asthma, don't do it. I went there for a semester and had 2 devastating asthma attacks. I swear they must be farming ragweed over there. Ot

I did an internship there this past summer, so I may be able to help a little. Iowa City which is basically attached to the school has pretty much everything you need in the way of stores and such. They have a super Walmart, a mall and Movie Theater, all the chain stores and restaurants several choices for groceries although I think finding international food might be a bit tough. On one side of campus within walking distance is the where a bunch of eateries and bars are at. There is something like 20 bars within a two block radius this is where all of the little stores that you'll find at practically every campus are located. Iowa River runs through the campus which is actually quite pretty and well maintained. The river is large, and there are several lakes and parks near by, so there are plenty of outdoors things to do. The university and the campus are great, but the main problem is that it is secluded from pretty much everywhere. So if you get bored with what the small city has to offer, then you have to do a fairly long drive to anywhere substantial. Cost of living is fairly low and there is a decent bus system that goes around campus, although I’m not sure it runs in the other parts of the city. That’s all I can think of for now, if you have any specific questions?

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I did my undergrad there! Let me know what program you're looking at, and maybe I can even tell you something about the buildings/facilities. The below poster is somewhat right about the downtown area. It is wonderful! IC has one downtown/campustown area and it is always bustling. It is full of little shops, independent bookstores, and yes, lots of bars. There is a lot of ethnic food--I can think of Indian, Thai, Italian, an Irish pub, really good sushi, a noodle place, some good Mexican, and a greek place off the top of my head. And those are just the cheap places. The campus bus system is free and it also runs to some of the neighborhoods that are heavily populated by students. The city bus system is also very good, but you would need to buy a pass for that. Outdoor recreation is wonderful. There is a very nice mall in the connected city of Coralville with a SuperWalmart (yuck) and a big Target and all the chain stores you could want. Let me know if you need info about where to live or have any other questions. I can definitely hook you up!

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I grew up in Iowa City, and love it dearly. Many people, especially academics, end up liking it much more than they expected and stay forever.

It is NOT a city. It does not bustle. Rush hour means it takes 5 extra minutes to get across town. Some people like that, some people don't. It is a quitessential college town. Lots of shops, restaurants, bars that cater to students, and a very youthful/academic "vibe" in the town. Lots of ethnic food (there's a relatively large, for Iowa, Asian population due to UI) and a few really quality restaurants as well as the cheap-yet-tasty ones :). A great local natural foods co-op (New Pioneer) that's similar to Whole Foods only better. Public transit is pretty good around the city, though cars are more popular, and the bus system doesn't extend outside the Iowa City/Coralville city limits.

It's also very midwestern - people are friendly, crime is minimal (I have honestly seen a loose horse and buggy featured in the police blotter in the local paper), and there's a laid back atmosphere (I can't think of a restaurant I wouldn't wear jeans to). It's quite liberal, and education is a top priority for the town (public schools are well funded and there's a brand new shiny public libarary downtown). Acutally if you take out education (the University and local school district) and health care (the three hospitals) the largest employer in town is a grocery store chain. Rent and food- seem low compared to elsewhere I've lived. I know graduate students who have bought homes in the area.

One of IC's great advantages over other medium-sized midwestern towns is it's cultural offerings. UI has a big music school with lots of quality concerts, some free, a good theatre program (summer rep theatre is popular), a good dance program, and a major performing arts center (Hancher-look it up if you're interested) that regularly brings in *nationally* known theatre, dance, and musical performances. There are various festivals in the summertime.

One of it's biggest disadvantages is that it's far from everything - 3-4 hours from Chicago, 4-5 to the twin cities and St. Louis. 10-12 to a national park -some friends and I calculated that it's about as far away from a national park as you can get in the US. There is outdoor recreation near by (Coralville Resovoir, Lake Macbride, Iowa river) - but nothing breathtaking, and not large (i.e. backcountry doesn't exist). There are some interesting cultural things nearby - Kalona's a big Amish community, lots of little quirky towns (such as Fairfield, home to a maharishi buddhist community and Amana Colonies, a town that flaunts its german roots). Outdoor recreation is readily available (biking, running, boating, canoeing, kayaking). And there is definitely a beauty to the rolling hills and farmfields of the area, even if it's not mountains or oceans. Although I've been told only people who grow up there see it ;).

So that's my gushing about IC. Not for everyone, but many people are happier there than they expected to be.

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Thanks a lot guys, your info were really valuable.

I think I have a good picture of the place and indeed I will probably enjoy staying there (well not for the rest of my life maybe, but for 4-5 years it should be more than fine!)

I just have a small question, I know there is no airport in town and the closest one is in Cedar Rapids and I assume long distance busses also stop there, how exactly can you go from Iowa City to Cedar Rapids. I know there is a shuttle service from the airport, but is $30 one way! Is there any other way of making the trip (I don’t think I’ll buy a car, at least not for the first couple of years). From Google Maps it seems like there is a railroad connecting the two .. is there a small commuting train or something?

Thanks already.

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I also grew up in Iowa City (hey!) and I loved it. I was accepted to law school there this year but turned it down for my dream PhD program far, far away.

One thing to remember about Iowa is that it has the International Writer’s Workshop. This is basically the premier English fiction program in the United States, turning out many Pulitzer-winning authors past and present (Marilynne Robinson for one.) This is the major piece of a large arts community in the city that infuses a very distinct, interesting, bohemian vibe to everything there. It’s hard to explain, but you will meet a lot of extremely interesting people there if you are open to it.

The best thing about Iowa City: the Ped Mall in the summer evenings. You will find dancing hippies, families, seniors, students, angry teens, college kids looking for a good time, all together in a fun patois. Prairie Lights bookstore is locally owned and not to be missed. They have great readings there. Most everything in Downtown Iowa City is locally owned, and you will find fewer chain restaurants and more offbeat, hip bars and funky boutiques.

Food: go to the Hamburg Inn or Paglia’s Pizza for a truly local experience. There is a ton of ethnic food right downtown – from Indian Vegetarian to the local Gyro stand (again, only out on summer nights) to a fabulous sushi restaurant. Also very upscale restaurants (ala Chicago) like Devotay.

Many people fall in love with Iowa City.

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As far as I know there's nothing like a commuter train. The best thing might be the shuttle, at least for your first time. Then after that you can probably get a friend or classmate to give you a ride (it's only about a twenty or thirty minute drive). Or you could maybe rent a car, but I'm not sure that would be any cheaper than the shuttle. Also try asking the Office of International Students and Scholars or whatever other office you may be working through when it comes closer to your time to travel to Iowa City--they may have some other ideas or could send a current student to pick you up.

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  • 1 year later...

Great shopping and reasonable prices for everything...who would've thought right? I was out there for a conference and being from the SF Bay Area I was really surprised that visiting a square state wasn't as painful as I thought it would be. Can't really comment on the program since I have no knowledge of it, but nice facilities and Chicago is only a few hours away! Be sure to check out the open shop thing they do once a month...see local artwork and drink free champagne while eating chocolate covered strawberries.

-SciGeek

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I recently received a great offer for grad studies at U. of Iowa. I know nothing about the campus or town. I've spent the last 5 years living in Chicago, and the thought of leaving the city makes me a bit panicky. So, I'm looking for any helpful info about the Iowa City community. Specifically, I'd love to hear from anyone who might have some feedback about the following: best areas to rent apartments (addresses are welcome! hah!), cost of living alone/one bedroom (I've been living alone for several years, and I'd prefer not to go back to roommate-land -- not that it is that horrible -- just feeling old and set in my ways!), outdoor recreation opportunities (Probably the only thing I miss in Chicago is quick access to really good outdoorsy areas.), diversity of the university community (Their stats look kinda measly when it comes to ethnic/racial diversity. I'm hoping it doesn't feel like that on campus, though!), and finally, (this may sound hokey, but whatever) Best Coffee Shops!

Again, I'm looking at a grad program, so any feedback from grad students (especially old farts like me (27)) would be wonderful; however, I also welcome input from anyone who's attended Iowa as an undergrad.

Thanks!!

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Hi! Can anyone tell me about the different areas/neighborhoods in Iowa City? I am a prospective grad student there next fall and I'll be married, so my husband and I would be looking probably to rent a house, at least for the first year. We want to avoid an area that has a lot of undergrads and loud parties all night. A neighborhood with mostly grad students would be fine, but probably an area with non-students may even be ideal. Where should we look for a nice, but affordable house?

Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated!

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Hi! Can anyone tell me about the different areas/neighborhoods in Iowa City? I am a prospective grad student there next fall and I'll be married, so my husband and I would be looking probably to rent a house, at least for the first year. We want to avoid an area that has a lot of undergrads and loud parties all night. A neighborhood with mostly grad students would be fine, but probably an area with non-students may even be ideal. Where should we look for a nice, but affordable house?

Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated!

As an undergrad in Iowa City, I've been living in the dorms, so you may want to take my advice with a grain of salt. However, I can give you a bit of basic advice, if you like.

If quiet is what you want, avoid the downtown area to the east of the river, near campus. That means Market, Burlington, Gilbert, Dodge, Van Buren, and Johnson streets, essentially. From what I know, however, the area south of Burlington is pretty quiet - the people who tend to hang out near the bars don't really go into the residential areas unless they live there, and most of them tend to be undergraduates living in the apartments nearer campus.

Just about anywhere on the west side of the river is great. Quiet, relatively close to campus, etc. The Cambus, which is the free busline run by the university, stops at several places on Melrose Ave that I know of, so I'd guess that University Heights would be a great place to live for convenience, if you can find any houses to rent there. If you live farther away from campus, you might want to invest in a public bus pass - even if you have a car, the parking on campus can be a real pain, and expensive as well.

I'm not sure about pricing, but Iowa City is pretty cheap in general. I think that renting a house for somewhere between $1500 and $3000 a month is common, but I'm not that sure about the quality of the house.

Good luck to you! Iowa City's a pretty nice, affordable place to live, so you should be able to find a place you like at a decent price.

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@Immajean: I mostly agree w/ColorlessGreen. Avoid Lucas, Dodge, Governer, College, Market, Gilbert (basically everything a few streets north and south of burlington from the river to the edge of town). A little North of town on the East side tends to be more residential house-like (Brown St. historic district). West of the river is the medical/dental campus...it is quieter but you'll tend to find more massive apartment complexes than affordable houses.

If you REALLY want an affordable house, or 2 bedroom apartment try Coralville (CHEAP! BIG!). There's a decent Coralville bus system that gets to campus (I know at least 2 grad students who do this daily). There are also a few commuter lots where you can park and bus (the cambus is free, and it's a discounted rate for parking). It's absolutely ridiculous to park on campus. So if you want to be in biking/walking distance stick with the West side and the Northeast parts. Otherwise, driving from Coralville will be no longer than 15 min.

@lo22 START LOOKING NOW. For whatever reason, it's an incredibly tight rental market. If you want to be at all close to campus in a decent place, check craigslist ASAP.

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I also highly recommend avoiding any properties managed by Kacena Real Estate Management (K-REM). This company offers cheap housing, but you get less than what you pay for. Seriously, these people will rip you off. They keep the security deposit based on bogus claims. They are being sued and have been sued by multiple parties. Of course, most tenants would rather let the money go (or don't realize that they can sue) than take them to court. K-REM is absolutely ridiculous, so stay away.

@Immajean: I mostly agree w/ColorlessGreen. Avoid Lucas, Dodge, Governer, College, Market, Gilbert (basically everything a few streets north and south of burlington from the river to the edge of town). A little North of town on the East side tends to be more residential house-like (Brown St. historic district). West of the river is the medical/dental campus...it is quieter but you'll tend to find more massive apartment complexes than affordable houses.

If you REALLY want an affordable house, or 2 bedroom apartment try Coralville (CHEAP! BIG!). There's a decent Coralville bus system that gets to campus (I know at least 2 grad students who do this daily). There are also a few commuter lots where you can park and bus (the cambus is free, and it's a discounted rate for parking). It's absolutely ridiculous to park on campus. So if you want to be in biking/walking distance stick with the West side and the Northeast parts. Otherwise, driving from Coralville will be no longer than 15 min.

@lo22 START LOOKING NOW. For whatever reason, it's an incredibly tight rental market. If you want to be at all close to campus in a decent place, check craigslist ASAP.

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Congrats to those who got into UI!

I'm an undergrad here (transferred here in 2008) and I'm graduating this May. I would say UI is a great place to study (nice professors & fellow students) but not a good place to enjoy your life (you know it). Just like other Mid-west colloge towns, Iowa City is (basically) in the middle of nowhere, the nearst city is Chicago (4-5 hr drive away) and we have only one shopping mall in this area (20 min drive away). For the undergrads it's a famous drinking school, but I think it would be much better if you're grad student who have almost no time for friday night house parties... well the academic aspect is well known throughout mid-west as we have a lot of faculties originally graduated from illinois, kansas, minnesota, michigan and wisconsin... so you'll get a good network in the surrounding big cities (say, minneapolis, kansas city, des moines, milwaukee or chicago) If you're a PhD student you'd better prepare yourself spending more than 5 years in this tiny little town and you won't get crazy eventually (that's some of the grad students told me =( after all welcome to iowa, where snow falls for half a year into april!!!

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I haven't made my final decision yet, but it looks like I will probably be moving to Iowa City as well! I've been looking at housing, but have no idea what neighborhoods would be good for a grad student, yet still near campus and most importantly.... walkable!!! I do have a car, but currently live in a city that is 100% vehicle dependant and I am looking to drive much less! Any thoughts?

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I am going to U. of IA this coming fall, and am wondering if there are any good places to get some organic food? Thanks to anyone who may be able to help :)

Hi, there. I did my undergrad at UI, and it's a great place!

You can get organic foods at the Pioneer Coop. There's a location downtown, about 3-4 blocks from campus and a store in Coralville. The main grocery store here is Hy-Vee, and the one on the south end of town has a really good organic foods selection. I hope this helps, and congrats on UI!

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